Country report and updates: Chile



1 Conscription

conscription exists

Military service is regulated by the Law of Recruitment and Mobilization of the Chilean Armed Forces (The 12 September 1978 Decree-Law no. 2306). [2] [3] [4]

military service

All men aged 18 to 45 are liable for military service. [1]

Military service lasts for 8 to 12 months in the army and air force, and 8 to 18 months in the navy. [1]

All military obligations end at the age of 45. [4]

Women may volunteer for military service.

Compulsory military service may be performed as ordinary military service, by taking special courses, or by providing services (prestaci--n de servicios). Those who have received sufficient education may, by order of the President, perform their military service by taking special courses, when so requested by the armed forces. Similarly, those with professional, occupational or trade skills or knowledge that might be useful to the armed forces may perform their military service by 'provision of services', according to which they both get military training and can contribute their expertise to national defence bodies. This 'provision of services' lasts for 180 days, and falls into two stages, each lasting no more than 90 days and at least a year elapsing between the stages (article 34 of Decree-Law 2306). [3] [4]

It is not known whether these possible alternative ways of performing military service are applied in practice. [4]

After completing their military service conscripts become reservists, however only in exceptional cases do they get called up for reservists' training. [4]

postponement and exemption

College and university students are allowed to postpone their military service. [2]

Exemption is officially granted on medical grounds and to those with a criminal record, to the clergy or studying therefor, to those living abroad and in some cases to civil servants. [2] [4]

Also close relatives of people who 'disappeared' during the dictatorship, as recognised by the Rettich commission (Law no. 19.123) are exempted. [4]

In the past there have been cases of conscripts getting exempted

- because of personal connections with an official;

- because they did not respond to the call-up;

- because they were married; or

- because they were considered leaders or militant members of some subversive group. [1]

Many try to evade military service either by obtaining a medical certificate declaring them unfit to serve or by using contacts with armed forces' officials. [1] [4]


In the year they become 18, all men must register at recruitment centres. For women registration is voluntary. Conscripts are enlisted into the army or navy according to where they live and recruits are called up annually between February and April. They must then undergo (medical) examination to ascertain whether they are fit to serve or should be exempted. In practice military service is performed between the ages of 18 and 30. [1] [3] [4]

2 Conscientious objection

legal right

There is no legal provision for conscientious objection. [1]

On 28 August 1997 fourteen COs signed a declaration of conscientious objection to military service at a notaries' office, appealing officially to the Director General of Mobilisation to grant them the right to conscientious objection. Although the Chilean government is supposed to answer any citizen's enquiry within 15 days, they received no reply. When they complained at the Ministry of Defence and demanded an answer, the latter responded that granting such a right was not within their remit. The COs have now lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal. [4]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Penalties for draft evasion and desertion are prescribed by the 1978 Decree-Law 2306 and by the 24 November 1992 Code of Military Justice.

Those who do not register for military service may receive minor prison sentences (presidio menor grado m'nimo), lasting from 61 to 541 days. Or they may be ordered to perform military service for twice the normal length of time - possibly amounting to as long as four years. Those who are called up but fail to appear in the military barracks are be considered remiss and punished as above. [2] [3] [4]

The current penalty for failing to respond to call-up for military reserve service may be up to five years' imprisonment under article 94 of the Penal Code and articles 74 and 75 of Decree-Law No. 2306. [3]

Desertion is punishable under art. 317 of Law 2306 by imprisonment for from 61 days to 5 years. If the desertion is in some way aggravated or occurs in wartime, punishment may be up to life imprisonment. The Code of Military Justice does not prescribe capital punishment, but in wartime deserters may be considered traitors and get sentenced to death by a war tribunal. [1] [4]


In recent years the number of draft evaders has been increasing, because of the continuing abuses and maltreatment of conscripts in the armed forces. Between July 1995 and April 1997, 22 conscripts lost their lives during military service, because of abuse of power, supposed accidents or suicide. Ministry of Defence research revealed that 17.2 percent of conscripts declared they had been mistreated. SERPAJ Chile estimates the number to be about 4,600 conscripts annually. [6]

Many try to avoid military service by failing to register for military service. There number is estimated to be up to 10,000. [4]

In the past, following the Pinochet coup, there were various cases of recruits being shot for desertion or for refusing to obey orders to fusillade other persons. The case of Michel Nash in Pisagua is well known in Chile. He disobeyed orders to fusillade hence was executed himself. [1] [4]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 94,300 strong, including 32,800 conscripts. The armed forces form about 0.65 percent of the population. In addition to the regular armed forces there is a 31,200 strong paramilitary force of carabineros. [5]

Every year some 125,000 young men reach conscription age. [5]

Between 20,000 and 30,000 of them are actually recruited. [4]


[1] ROLC 1994. Informe del taller de formacion para la objecion de consciencia i encuentro latinoamericano de objecion de consciencia. Serpaj, Asuncion, Paraguay. [2] Information from the Office of the Military Attaché, Embassy of the Republic of Chile, Ottawa sent to the DIRB, 18 April 1994 and 26 September 1995. [3] Information from Comisi--n Chilena de Derechos Humanos sent to the DIRB, 29 April 1994 and 22 September 1995. [4] Baronti, Rosella 1997. Corrections and additions to the draft report. CODEPU, Santiago, Chile. [5] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [6] SERPAJ Chile 1997. Servicio militar obligatorio y violacion de los derechos humanos en Chile. SERPAJ, Santiago, Chile.


Articles related to conscientious objection

01 Oct 2001


enviado por Orly, desde el SERPAJ PY

9 de agosto del 2001

Después de siete años de vigencia de la Constitución Nacional todavía no se reglamenta la figura de la Objeción de Conciencia. Hubo dos intentos, uno en 1996 y otro en 1997, en ambas oportunidades el poder ejecutivo vetó las leyes sancionadas por el Congreso.

Forum posts related to conscientious objection